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Were there any famous predictions made in the Victorian era?

In his 1889 article “In the year 2889,” Jules Verne predicted that the news of the day would be spoken to subscribers. This was an accurate prediction as the first radio newscast took place 30 years later, and the first television news broadcast happened 28 years after that. Also, his From the Earth to the Moon (1865) speculated all about a light-propelled spacecraft. Today we call that solar technology. NASA uses solar sails (a type of spacecraft propulsion).

Reuters used pigeons

Paul Reuter (21 July 1816 – 25 February 1899) of Reuters news fame, used pigeons with messages attached to their feet so that he could relay messages in places where telegraph lines weren't yet complete. While telegraphy was starting to gain ground, Reuter founded the Reuters News Agency in Aachen and sent messages between Brussels and Aachen by using carrier pigeons. The pigeons were a lot faster than post train, which gave Reuter faster access to news from the Paris Stock Exchange.

This gentleman was a lady

James Miranda Stuart Barry (c. 1789-1799 – 25 July 1865, born Margaret Ann Bulkley), was a military surgeon in the British Army. After graduation from the University Of Edinburgh Medical School, Barry served in India and Cape Town, South Africa. By the end of his career, he had risen to the rank of Inspector General in charge of military hospitals. In his travels he not only improved conditions for wounded soldiers, but also the conditions of the native inhabitants. Among his accomplishments was the first caesarean section in Africa by a British surgeon in which both the mother and child survived the operation. Although Barry lived his adult life as a man, it is believed that at birth he was identified or assigned as female and named Margaret Ann Bulkley, and that he chose to live as a man so that he might be accepted as a university student and able to pursue a career as a surgeon.


The Police Force was created during the Victorian period by Sir Robert Peel (hence the nickname 'Bobbies')


The population of Great Britain doubled from 16 million to 37 million people during the Victorian era.

Carriage rule

In a carriage, a gentleman was not allowed to sit next to a lady unless he is her husband, brother, father, or son.

Ladies could not dance the night away

At dancing balls, each of the ladies had a little card with all of the dances listed on it. In asking for a particular dance from a lady, a gentleman would write his name in the desired slot(s) on the card so that they would both remember which dance(s) he was promised. Ladies could not have more than three dances with the same gentleman.

Ladies did not always go first

Men always went ahead of a lady in going up stairs. In going down the stairs, he would follow her.

Where does the word 'Victorian' come from?

"Victorian" refers to

  • Queen Victoria of Great Britain or

  • to the age in which she ruled or

  • a person who lived during the reign of Victoria

  • objects made during her 64 year reign

When exactly was the Victorian era?

It was the period of Queen Victoria's reign, from June 1837 until her death on the 22nd of January 1901. She was 80. A new age began then, the Edwardian age, reigned over by her eldest son Edward VII.


However, as a matter of expediency, these dates are sometimes slightly modified.  1830 is usually considered the end of the Romantic period in Britain, and thus makes a convenient starting date for Victorianism.  Similarly, since Queen Victoria’s death occurred so soon to the beginning of a new century, the end of the previous century provides a useful closing date for the period.

Are there any famous inventions of the Victorian era?

Yes, there were several, including (but not limited to):

  • The telephone (1876) by Graham Bell,  The flush toilet (Thomas Twyford),
  • The camera (William Talbot), The radio (Guglielmo Marconi),
  • Stamps (Rowland Hill), The vacuum cleaner (Hubert Booth),
  • Sewing machines (Elias Howe), Steam engine (by George Stephenson),
  • The elevator / lift (Henry Waterman), The escalator (Nathan Ames),
  • Cullen Whipple patents a machine for making screws (1856)
  • The motorcar (Karl Benz), Meccano
  • The can opener (1870), Blue Jeans (1873)
  • Barbed wire (1874), The phonograph (1877)
  • The cash register (1879), Incandescent light bulb (1879) by Joseph Swan
  • Electric Clothes iron (1882), Electric fan (1882)
  • Photographic film ( 1885), Coca Cola (1886)
  • Kodak box camera (1888), The typewriter (1829)
  • Aspirin (1899), The rubber band (1845)
  • The safety pin (1849), The drinking straw (1888) by Marvin Chester
  • Dynamite (1866), The first jelly babies (1864) by Herr Steinbeck in Lancashire
  • Antiseptic spray (1871) by Joseph Lister (Listerine mouthwash was named after him in 1879)
  • Venetian blinds (by John Hampton in 1841)
  • The adding machine (by William Seward Burroughs) in 1888

Why was the home often over-dressed?

The home was regarded as a haven from the busy and chaotic public world of politics and business, and from the grubby world of the factory. Those who could afford to, created cosy domestic interiors with plush fabrics, heavy curtains and fussy furnishings which effectively cocooned the inhabitants from the world outside. The middle-class household contained concrete expressions of domesticity in the form of servants, décor, furnishings, entertainment and clothing.

Were servants generally employed in the Victorian era?

Many households had servants – in the 1891 UK census, 2 million servants were recorded.

Why were upper class ladies' dresses so extravagant?

The female body was dressed to emphasise a woman's separation from the world of work.

Food & Eating

How did the Victorians keep food fresh without modern refrigeration?


Commercially manufactured ice was freely available by the mid-Victorian period and primitive ice chests were made – either at home or professionally, which cooled food by evaporation.


Why do Victorian cookery books place so much emphasis on Aspic for decoration?


Aspic is a clear savoury jelly made from boiled calves’ feet and was used extensively to mask or cover cold dishes which needed to stay fresh for some time: the aspic acted as a natural ‘Jiffy Wrap'® to keep moisture in and germs and bacteria out.


What is the difference between Service a la Française and Service a la Russe?


Service a la Française (in the French Style) was in fashion until the middle of the Victorian period and consisted of a large number of different dishes placed on the table at once – people helped themselves and one another from common dishes.


Service a la Russe (in the Russian Style) became increasingly popular after the 1850’s. Food began to be served in successive courses, with one dish and its accompaniments handed round at a time. This entailed a vast expenditure in cutlery and crockery, and of course waiting staff.

Why did tea cost so much during the Victorian era?

Tea had to be imported from the Far East via the Cape. Until the advent of both steam driven ships and the Suez Canal, the commodity had to be carried by fast sailing ships called Clippers, which vied with one another to do the runs as quickly as possible.  The Cutty Sark was the most famous of these ships, but she could only manage 3 round trips a year. This all added to the cost of tea - in the 1850's, 500g of tea cost the equivalent of a working man's monthly pay.  Tea was also heavily taxed in England as a luxury item and many tea merchants, such as Liptons, moved their operations to Scotland to avoid these taxes.

How did people travel from place to place?

The Victorian era was a time of rapid modernisation and innovation. Quicker, safer road travel was made possible by the invention of tarred road surfaces: sea travel was improved by the invention of steam-assisted sailing ships; and the invention of the railway made mass transport possible because of its affordability.

Did the Victorians have motor cars?

The first commercially built motor cars were only built after Queen Victoria died, but many experimental models, mostly steam driven, were made during the last years of her reign.

Did the Victorians go on holiday?

Many of the poorest Victorians lived a hand-to-mouth existence and holidays were not possible for them. However, most of the middle class tried to get away, either to the seaside or to the country, once a year if possible.  Sea bathing was made socially acceptable by the Queen, who swam with her children on the Isle of Wight, and the royal family made holidays to Scotland very popular.

Were there travel agents in the Victorian era?

Thomas Cook began his travel agency in 1850 to help English middle-class people travel abroad - a privilege previously reserved for the rich, who had contacts abroad and the financial means to engage a fulltime professional agent to accompany them.

Jack the Ripper

The name given to an (officially) unidentified serial killer. This killer murdered street women in the Whitechapel district of London (in 1888). These murders terrified Victorians.

Jekyll and Hyde

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Lewis Stevenson was originally published as The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in January 1886.

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